November 0001


Oriental Ingenuity, Oliphant Smeaton’s Wish Granted, and Seebohm Prout.

FACTOID: THE WORLD’S SMALLEST PC PRINTER.

This is the Finesse5000X made by the Yahooda Corporation of Osaka, Japan. It is circular in shape, and only 1.4 centimeters in diameter, and 8mm. high. Surprisingly, it can produce prints (black and white only) up to A3 in size, as it works by attaching itself to the paper and running up and down on nano-tracks in parallel paths.

The reason it can’t produce bigger prints is that it only contains enough ink to produce a single copy of this size.

It may be a small printer, but its price isn’t. The cheapest model costs $17,000. High flying Japanese businessmen consider it trendy to keep one in their cuff, and bring it out at meetings. They even race them, and bet on the results.

 

MAVIS PARK AND THE LONDON KIPPER.

One of London’s least known attractions is Mavis Park. This is a completely unaltered Victorian suburb. You can get there by taking a number 5 horse tram (itself the last one left in service anywhere in Europe) from The Pump, in Greenwich. The ride takes about fifteen minutes. You can instantly tell you have taken a step back in time. The ladies wear big skirts and carry parasols, the men wear top hats, there are hordes of deformed child prostitutes, and all the letter boxes say VR (Victoria Regina = Queen Victoria) on them. You will have some difficulty finding a phone.

As you walk around the streets, you will see many of the houses have an iron hook embedded in the outside wall, just beside a first floor window. This is perhaps the most interesting feature of Mavis Park. They are for making London Kippers, and Mavis Park is the only place left where the real item can be had. Normal kippers are made by putting a herring in a smoke house, and leaving it there to impregnate. London Kippers are different. They used to be made all over London, by leaving a herring suspended on a hook outside the house in a pea-souper. Pea soupers were fogs caused by the discharge from industrial chimneys, from steam trains, and from millions of domestic fireplaces. They were so dense you could only see a yard or so in front of you, and they could produce a perfect kipper in only 24 hours. The Clean Air Act, of 1946 ended this problem in the rest of London, but in Mavis Park, pea soupers are still common. Even in Harrod’s food hall, if you ask for a London Kipper, you will get a poor imitation. These fake London Kippers are made by being placed above a bed of smouldering sulphur, and have an unpleasant rubbery taste. Most of them actually come from Nottingham. The best place to buy the real thing is Jackson’s Fishmongers, on the Albert Esplanade, right in the middle of Mavis Park. Expect to pay about half a crown for a pair. I strongly recommend them. Jackson’s, incidentally, insist on using only Thames herrings, which is another point in their favour.

We are indebted to the English Tourist Board and to VisitLondon.com for much assistance with this article.

We are indebted to the English Tourist Board and to VisitLondon.com for much assistance with this article.

 

A GREAT CONRIBUTION TO GASTRONOMY.

We seem to be living in an era of celebrity chefs and wine writers. The shelves in bookshops groan with the latest offerings from Aynsley Herriot, Madhur Jaffrey and the Roux Brothers. Among writers of a previous generation, Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson are enjoying a strong revival. But who remembers Seebohm Prout? Prout enjoyed his golden age in the 1960’s, and his last book “More Unusual Combinations to Tickle the Palate” was published as recently as 1987, albeit posthumously. By then, sadly, his reputation had diminished so much that the book sold only 200 copies before being remaindered, and, soon after, pulped. As a result, copies of it now command a high price among those few enthusiasts who have heard of him.

Most of Prout’s work considered which drink went best with which food, and it reached it’s apogee of originality in “A Confection of Confectionary”, where he pointed out that many of us eat more sweets thananything else. The true gourmet, he said, should consider what to drink with these. Nothing, he considered, could match the combination of an old Valpolicella with a chocolate truffle. Maltesers, although superficially similar in flavour, really went best with a cheap champagne-style drink (e.g. Asti Spumante). Most of us would not be able to think what to drink with Turkish Delight: Prout showed his genius by recommending a Singapore Sling, or a very dry Manhattan. He even knew what goes with chewing gum. His prescription? Dutch Gin, with a dash of lime. The long, slow suck of a gob stopper could only be matched with a vintage sweet cider.

The Orion group hold the copyright to most of Prout’s works, and I’d be grateful if you could badger them to reprint at least a selection.

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